No apologies as anti-Japan riots continue

Japan's foreign minister flew to Beijing Sunday as protests spread to six cities in China.

The continuing anti-Japan riots in China mark the worst deterioration in relations between the nations since political links were established in 1972.

China's foreign minister refused to apologize for another weekend of sometimes violent protests in at least six Chinese cities. "The main problem now is that the Japanese government has done a series of things that have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people on the Taiwan issue, some international issues including human rights and especially in its treatment of history," Li Zhaoxing told his visiting Japanese counterpart, Nobutaka Machimura, Sunday.

Mr. Machimura flew to China to try to heal the widening rift between the two Asian rivals. He insisted that China deal in accordance with international law and protect Japanese diplomatic buildings.

In Japan, the crisis is giving left-leaning critics of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi fresh ammunition for what they see as foreign-policy arrogance - a lack of consultation with its neighbors on contentious issues. "Japan's position is hardly praiseworthy," says Masaya Shiraishi, a professor of international relations at Waseda University in Tokyo. He blames the high-handed foreign policy style that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has adopted. "Koizumi's foreign-policy stance looks only to the US, and has no consideration for Asian nations," he says.

Critics say Mr. Koizumi's response to the earlier anti-Japan riots in China underscores their point. Last week, Tokyo announced plans to grant Japanese firms concessions to drill for energy resources in a disputed area in the East China Sea. Despite knowing of Japanese interests in the area, China recently built structures over gas fields that Tokyo says extend into Japanese territory. Foreign ministry officials in Tokyo said the decision to go ahead with issuing drilling rights was routine "procedure in line with domestic law."

Japan has recently stepped up its global security profile of late - contributing to UN peacekeeping troops in Cambodia, East Timor, and Africa, as well as sending 600 soldiers for noncombat duty in Iraq - as it seeks to throw off the pacifist political shackles that have circumscribed its geopolitical role since its World War II defeat. The US is encouraging Tokyo to play a more active role in an East Asian political community, both economically and in terms of security.

Most analysts see the protests as China's way of expressing displeasure over Japan's bid for a UN Security Council seat. China's Premier Wen Jiabao said last week that Tokyo wasn't ready for a Security Council seat until it faced up to its history of aggression.

While Koizumi has called for dialogue on such issues as gas drilling, critics say his unwillingness to compromise adds to the likelihood that tensions with China will remain frosty. And his conservative base says that Tokyo should not let Beijing steamroll Japan.

Despite concerns that Chinese calls for boycotting Japanese goods may undercut the $178 billion in annual trade between the two nations, a survey published Saturday by the Japan Junior Chamber International group of young business leaders showed that 79 percent of members felt the government ought not to bow to the views of the Korean and Chinese governments. The poll also showed that 72 percent felt that Tokyo wasn't taking a strong enough position on the protests.

The lack of apology by Chinese officials also hasn't helped defuse the situation. Some Japanese analysts say the behavior of the Chinese government raises questions about its political maturity. Beijing's attitude "makes it very difficult to find a starting point for resolving the dispute," says a Japanese expert on international relations, who asked not to be named.

Many Japanese feel that the attention given by Beijing and Seoul to a school textbook written by nationalist historians is disproportionate, given that the text is used in less than 1 percent of schools. But the book's positive treatment of the Japanese Imperial Army's actions in Asia backs up the view that Tokyo has little remorse for the ruthless conduct of the wartime militarists who ran the nation.

Reuters material was used in this story.

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